Editor’s Note: As part of National Review Institute’s End-of-Year Appeal, NRI fellows are sharing words of wisdom and inspiration. Today, Kathryn Jean Lopez explains NRI’s vital role in focusing attention on the most important issues of our day. In that spirit, we encourage you to find out more about the Institute’s Regional Fellows Program.
Let me tell you about National Review Institute, and why it is an important thing in these times (and, yes, why it merits your support).
Among the many things it does, NRI affords its fellows an opportunity to take a step back and reflect, as conservatives, on who we are, where we are, and where we ought to be heading.
I’m an NRI senior fellow and director of its Center for Religion, Culture, and Civil Society, one of several centers that concentrate our fellows’ attention on critical areas. In the parlance, these centers are “mediating institutions.” In translation, they are places that allow the very best conservative writers to make focused commentary on pressing cultural (such as, adoption), fundamental (such as, free speech), and global (such as, radical Islam’s assault on Western civilization) areas that are in dire need of such.
So what am I up to in my NRI Center? Let me explain.
In recent days, I’ve assembed articles from National Review’s archives to include in a pro-life reader that we will distribute in Washington next month at the March for Life. Included in it: William F. Buckley Jr. Clare Booth Luce. Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. Mary Eberstadt. Hadley Arkes. Michael Novak. William McGurn. Wendy Shalit. Ramesh Ponnuru. Kevin D. Williamson. John Miller. Kate O’Beirne. The names go on and on. And the pieces we couldn’t fit in do, too. We’re confident this collection will be a useful tool in the ongoing debate about abortion and adoption and related issues.
Indeed, this spring NRI will host a conference to discuss viable reforms that will aim to keep children from languishing in the foster-care system. This important effort is a by-product of an amazing “working lunch” NRI sponsored this year just prior to the March for Life in Washington.
My fellow duties have other pleasures. One of my favorite tasks is meeting four times a year with NRI’s regional fellows (this is a terrific program) to discuss a subject near and dear to our founder, Bill Buckley: gratitude.
Here’s Bill in his own words:
We are basket cases of ingratitude, so many of us. We cannot hope to repay in kind what Socrates gave us, but to live without any sense of obligation to those who made possible lives as tolerable as ours, within the frame of the human predicament God imposed on us — without any sense of gratitude to our parents, who suffered to raise us; to our teachers, who labored to teach us; to the scientists, who prolonged the lives of our children when disease struck them down — is spiritually atrophying.
We cannot repay in kind the gift of the Beatitudes, with their eternal, searing meaning — Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. But our ongoing failure to recognize that we owe a huge debt that can be requited only by gratitude — defined here as appreciation, however rendered, of the best that we have, and a determined effort to protect and cherish it — our failure here marks us as the masses in revolt; in revolt against our benefactors, our civilization, against God himself.
I find myself often feeling gratitude for Bill and his legacy when, through NRI on Campus, I visit college campuses throughout the school year.
No matter the time of year, Bill seems to emerge in our thoughts here. For example, as we approach Christmas and the year’s end, as we’re busy about presents and preparations, I’m reminded of a speech WFB gave in 1979. It’s titled “What Americanism Seeks to Be.” In it he talks about how the United States
grew out of a long, empirical journey, the eternal spark of which, of course, traces to Bethlehem, to that star that magnified man beyond any power of the emperors and gold seekers and legions of soldiers and slaves: a star that implanted in each one of us that essence that separates us from the beasts, and tells us that we were made in the image of God and were meant to be free.
No matter the time of year, Bill Buckley seems to emerge in our thoughts here.
That’s the worldview we at NRI seek to promote and defend. You do too, surely. And here is how you can accomplish that: Please send a tax-deductible contribution to our End-of-Year Appeal. You can be assured of your generosity having consequence, about the things that matter most to you. And you can also be assured of our gratitude.
In that speech on gratitude, WFB closed by saying:
To fail to experience gratitude when walking through the corridors of the Metropolitan Museum, when listening to the music of Bach or Beethoven, when exercising our freedom to speak or, as happened to us three weeks ago, to give, or withhold, our assent, is to fail to recognize how much we have received from the great wellsprings of human talent and concern that gave us Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, our parents, our friends, and, yes, the old lady in Stratford. We need a rebirth of gratitude for those who have cared for us, living and, mostly, dead. The high moments of our way of life are their gifts to us. We must remember them in our thoughts and prayers; and in our deeds.
I remain grateful whenever I wander through National Review’s archives and rediscover that WFB left us not only the legacy of the magazine but a wellspring of ideas and relationships that always seek something better. The excellence of our tradition insists on good stewardship and creativity: This is a responsibility — a mission — that NRI takes with ultimate seriousness. Please consider joining us on the mission. Let’s keep working together. Please consider making your contribution here.
Discover what others are saying about NRI and why it merits your support. Rick Brookhiser explains the benefits to the conservative movement of NRI’s Regional Fellows Program. Kevin Williamson highlights NRI’s exceptional writer-training effort, better known as the William F. Buckley Fellowship in Political Journalism. Jay Nordlinger explains how important defending and advancing the Buckley Legacy is to NRI’s mission, David French explores NRI’s mission as a conservative institution in our shared culture, and Jonah Goldberg looks at the breadth of NRI’s programs.